Anti-Israel Agitators Derail Dinner at Home of UC Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky

(Berkeley Law for Palestine Instagram)
April 10, 2024

Anti-Israel hecklers crashed a Tuesday dinner that U.C. Berkeley’s Jewish law school dean hosted for graduating students, days after activists circulated a blood libel cartoon targeting the dean and referencing the planned dinner.

Malak Afaneh, the head of Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine, stood in the midst of the backyard dinner hosted by law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky and his wife while roughly 60 law students were eating. Wearing a keffiyeh and hijab, she delivered an anti-Israel speech through a microphone, according to a Wednesday statement from Chemerinsky and an Instagram video from the Bay Area Palestinian Youth Movement that depicted the disruption. 

"Please leave our house, you are guests in our house," Chemerinsky can be heard saying, as his wife put her arm around Afaneh. Afaneh refused to budge, stating with her eyes half-closed that "we have attorneys" and that the disruption at the private home was their "First Amendment right." Ultimately Afaneh left with about 10 other students who had accompanied her.

The disruption came a week after the law school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine posted a cartoon on Instagram showing Chemerinsky holding a fork and knife dripping with blood over the dinner, captioned with "No Dinner With Zionist Chem While Gaza Starves." This post was deleted soon after it was posted last Monday, then shared again without blood on the utensils. Posters with the image were also distributed on bulletin boards around the law school.

Activists distributed these graphics after Chemerinsky announced three consecutive nights of dinners—starting Tuesday—for graduating law students who, because they had entered Berkeley during the COVID-19 lockdowns, had missed out on his usual tradition of inviting all first-year law students into his home.

Chemerinsky referenced the blood libel cartoon in his statement, noting that students had complained.

"I never thought I would see such blatant anti-Semitism, with an image that invokes the horrible anti-Semitic trope of blood libel and that attacks me for no apparent reason other than I am Jewish," he wrote. "Although many complained to me about the posters and how it deeply offended them, I felt that though deeply offensive, they were speech protected by the First Amendment."

The dean, who did not respond to a request for comment, said that the dinners scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday would go forward as planned, but he would hire security.

"Any student who disrupts will be reported to student conduct and a violation of the student conduct code is reported to the Bar," he said.

Afaneh, a third-year Berkeley law student, has commended Palestinians for their "active resistance against the apartheid state of Israel." In its Instagram post, the Bay Area Palestinian Youth Movement accused Chemerinsky of "assaulting" a "Palestinian Muslim Hijabi law student."

Chemerinsky as law school dean went viral last year for telling students how he gets around bans on affirmative action discriminatory hiring practices—according to a recording obtained by conservative journalist Christopher Rufo.

Chemerinsky said that in making hiring decisions based on racial diversity, "You can think it, you can vote it, but our discussions are not privileged, so don’t ever articulate that that’s what you’re doing," according to the viral clip.